Back in the day, I was listening to bands whose sheer volume of hair competed with the creativity of their belt buckles. The bands were mysterious, as if they fantastically emerged from behind that famous sign in Hollywood, the place where the celebrity machinery must be hidden.
Today I am becoming aware of a world of popular music filled with hands-on creativity and fun along with an accessibility that relegates the old industry rock and roll press release to museum artifact.
One day, I was at the local Tim Hortons where I spied a crew of male teens talking animatedly at a window table.
They acted quite jocular and looked very contemporary: one had his hair styled forward in a coif often seen in boyband members of today (although it’s more universal than that). Another sported a panama hat and yet another wore fingerless knit gloves on both hands.
There was a certain joie de vivre about them; a unique energy swirled about these four young men.
“Oh, they were at my school,” said my friend’s daughter as she ordered the new Tim’s “Caramel Dream” latte. “That’s Panicland.”
“Huh?” I replied.
Apparently, the boys comprised a music group called Panicland; I later discovered this group of youths had a great deal of talent and had produced a unique collection of self-made social media offerings in which everyone seemed to be included.
“They are a local band,” she explained.
It seemed to me Panicland was just about everywhere.
Picking up my friend’s daughter after a One Direction concert, I climbed the majestic staircase to the blindingly lit Investors Group Field auditorium. There at the top of the arena was … Panicland, just hanging out.
Dropping by the local Salisbury House for a nip, there again, in a booth, was Panicland … (hey, it’s even on YouTube, or at least an evening like it).
One warm September evening, a local school hosted a welcome night where Panicland was playing. The evening was made special with music, games, and a whole lot of fun for students.
Panicland plays nooners at schools, performs at high school sports games, have impersonated celebrities to gain entry and schmooze at important celebrity events (according to their website), busks at places where bands don’t usually show up (with audience meet up, I suspect, courtesy of social media), and plays traditional venues.
The band is an emerging breed of music group that promotes itself, using their own creative skills in new media applied in a grass roots way – quite unlike the cloaked workings of the distant, top-down celebrity machinery of past … especially, well, the 1980’s distant, top-down celebrity machinery of past; a time when I followed, with my friends, our favourite local bands.
(Disclosure: I have been accused of being a 1980’s stylistically entrenched mom and yes, those jeans are too loose for me to wear).
In addition to plain old high visibility, Panicland seems very connected to their followers (and vice versa) through social media. They (as well as other kids) concoct their own videos that often creatively mix music performance along with the reality of their experiences around it.
These works are then uploaded to YouTube or appear on Facebook pages, become a part of vlogs or else provide snippets or links on Twitter, Instagram and the like. Social media channels often feature photos of band members with arms around fans.
Says Panicland‘s website: “The old music industry is dying? No worries – young bands like Panicland are creating a new one!”
A short while ago, Panicland headlined at the Park Theatre where concert goers bowed over their iPhones with what I suspect were send-outs of photos or video of the experience.
The evening closed with the band socializing with fans in the refurbished theatre’s oversized front foyer.
It’s a new day for popular music. The places our favourite bands inhabit are the same places we are, virtual and otherwise.
In what seems a typically self-made YouTube video, Meetup and Security Sass, Panicland has constructed a classic from what is likely cell phone video and a downloaded video editing program.
It is a story told by them of their experiences, using video and employing a technique in which they cleverly place a drop (edit) from their cell phone video. With a whole lot of humour, Meetup and Security Sass tells a story that embraces their “voice to power”.
Storyline for Meetup and Secutiry Sass: The band wishes to busk at the Forks, but things go awry.
Captured on video is Braedon who is arguing with “the man” (security guard) in the Forks Market. They are not carrying the required busking permit, although they have one somewhere.
Braedon finally announces cancellation of their performance until Ian reveals all is well because his mom spoke to the guard.
Perhaps, back in the day, the equivalent classic rebellion piece to Meetup and Security Sass was the Five Man Electrical Band‘s mega hit, Signs:
Hey mister, can’t you read
Ya got to have a shirt and tie to get a seat
You can’t even watch, no you can’t eat
You ain’t supposed to be here
Sign says you gotta have a membership card to get inside…
Today, it is a self-made Panicland YouTube video that, if storyboarded, would go something like this:
- Security Guard: Get out. You don’t have a busker’s pass.
- Band guy: No. (General opposition / resistance).
- Wait, here comes Mom.
(Well, not quite). But the video leaves me with a question: when will we see a girl band busking for predominantly male fans at the Forks?
I recall one lunch hour in high school when fellow student Cole Smith’s band played at our school’s theatre. He wore an impressive outfit that resembled the togs worn by 70’s glam rocker Garry Glitter, with an oversized collar that looked like it was ripped from the very cloak worn by famous early shock rocker, Gene Simmons. It was great.
But this was the only example in all my high school years of any organic, grass roots promotion or experience of our very own, specifically local music.
It wasn’t until I was old enough to be a legal consumer at local drinking establishments that I was able to experience my favourite local bands. Winnipeg’s music scene was booming (and so were the “A-room” hotel bars).
One group called Harlequin was particularly popular, although they might have played mostly socials or larger halls when back home in Winnipeg since they were a bigger touring act. Harlequin churned out sequences of instant hits that were smashes from coast to coast … hey, wait a minute, hold the phone …
Isn’t that Glen Willows … guitarist for Harlequin (of that untouchable, unearthly, distant and hidden celebrity machinery back in the day) … who is the manager for Panicland now? Yes it is – I’ve googled the images and I’d recognize that hair anywhere!
Perhaps, in some ways, there is something about Panicland that makes me feel like its 1983 again – but an entirely better 1983.
(After all, my friend’s daugher did say the 80’s recently called; they want their clothes back).
“I’ll be thinking of you, thinking of you, next time around”